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Carniolan lily (Lilium carniolicum)

Carniolan lily ( Lilium carniolicum )

Class : Bedecktsamer (Magnoliopsida)
Order : Lily-like (Liliales)
Family : Lily family (Liliaceae)
Subfamily : Lilioideae
Genre : Lilies
Scientific name

The lilies ( Lilium ) are a genus of the family of the lily family (Liliaceae) with about 125 species .

Lilies are perennial, upright growing bulbous plants with often showy flowers . Because of their attractive appearance, they were and are valued as ornamental plants in many cultures . Some species are among the oldest ornamental plants and were also used as religious symbols. However, it was not until the 20th century that they gained industrial importance as cultivated plants and cut flowers. In Asia in particular, they are still used today as food and medicinal plants.

Based on its evolutionary origin in the Himalayas  , the genus can be found on all continents of the northern hemisphere , preferably in climatically temperate zones. The main distribution area is China, secondary centers are Japan, North America as well as Europe and the Caucasus . Closest related to the lilies is the genus of the checkerboard flowers .


All lilies are perennial , herbaceous plants . They grow from onions and, depending on the species, can reach a height of up to 310 centimeters.

Onion and rhizome

Lily bulbs are usually egg-shaped to almost round, made up of numerous onion scales and are not protected by an additional outer skin. The irregularly bulky onions are 1.4 to 11.7 inches long and 1.3 to 19 inches wide, the ratio of height to length varies from 0.1 to 3 to 1. The onion can be slightly inclined in the ground and approximately rhizomatically more or less elongated, but also distinctly rhizomatically elongated horizontally, rhizomes occasionally grow branched.

The onion scales are modified leaves and contain starch as a reserve . They are egg-shaped or lanceolate, fleshy and usually white, rarely yellow or purple, often with brownish spots. They overlap each other like roof tiles and can be between 0.8 and 11.9 centimeters long.


Lilium sulphureum , axillary bulbs

Lilies have two types of roots at the base of the bulb . Some are up to 5 millimeters thick, folded concentrically and contractile, so they have the ability to pull the onion deeper into the earth until the ideal depth is reached. The second type, the so-called adventitious roots , are significantly thinner, thread-like and are used solely to absorb nutrients. The latter can also be found underground on the stem above the onion.

Brood onions

In lilies, onions are also organs of vegetative reproduction . One possibility that is often found is the formation of so-called stem bulbs , i.e. small bulbs at the base of the stem, which develop into independent plants after several years. In a few species, such bulbs are also formed in the axils of the leaves ( Lilium puerense , Lilium sargentiae , Lilium sulphureum , Lilium arboricola , fire lily and tiger lily ). From there they fall down and can grow into independent plants in the soil in the following years.

Carniolan lily , stem and leaves
Lilium cernuum , flower

Stems and leaves

With the exception of the creeping Lilium procumbens , the usually smooth stems are usually green, occasionally tinged with purple, rarely gray-green-blue. The sessile to almost sessile leaves are either alternate, evenly or, more rarely, clustered towards the base of the stem or more often in 1 to 12, rarely up to 24 whorls . In the latter case, however, they are then distributed at the base and the tip of the plant. The whorls consist of three to twenty, rarely up to forty leaves that are 1.7 to 29 inches long and 0.2 to 5.6 inches wide, the length-width ratio is 1.6 to 34 to 1. The leaves are on the tips often curved downwards, linear, lanceolate, elliptical or - especially near the ground - ovoid, occasionally inverted-lanceolate. The green leaf blade becomes lighter towards the tip of the leaf, rarely paler and tapers towards the outer end. The leaf margins are entire, usually smooth and hairless, occasionally weakly papilose , sometimes rough towards the outer end due to triangular, epidermal needles.

The leaf veins usually consist of three mostly smooth and hairless main veins. Occasionally they are also studded with triangular, epidermal needles and are seldom deepened on the side facing the axis.


The terminal inflorescence is either a single flower or a cluster , rarely an umbel or umbrella cluster . The bracts are similar to the leaves. The flower stalks are 0.8 to 32 inches long. The flowers can be found hanging, nodding, ascending or upright on it. Many lilies have a more or less strong scent, but some are also fragrance-free.

The flowers are radial symmetry or weakly zygomorphic . A distinction can be made largely between three types of flowers, namely trumpet-shaped, bowl-shaped and so-called "Turk's Covenant Lilies", and there are also some tubular or cup-shaped flowers, or the flowers of Lilium lophophorum that are almost closed towards the front . In the Turk's cap are bloom rolled so far back that their tips again approaching and the stem side the flower as a turban looks similar.

The perianth is a two-circle perigon . All bracts are approximately the same in shape, color and size. Each circle consists of three intact bloom cladding sheets of white, greenish, yellow, orange or reddish to purple color. The inner half to two thirds of the bracts pointing towards the throat are often pink or chestnut-colored spotted, more or less lanceolate, tapered to nailed at the base, mostly hairless.

Lilium auratum , pollen

Facing the axis near the base of the leaves, the bracts form nectar . The nectaries are usually narrowly grooved, occasionally papilous or hairy. They are green and usually not visible, but occasionally they appear in the form of a green star in the center of the throat.

The bracts of the outer envelope circle are occasionally furrowed away from the axis, 3.1 to 12 inches long and 0.6 to 2.6 inches wide and usually taper towards the outer end. The bracts of the inner circle of bracts, on the other hand, are always grooved facing away from the axis and have two additional central longitudinal grooves facing towards the axis. They are 3 to 11.2 inches long and 0.6 to 3.4 inches wide. They too are usually pointed towards the outer end, but are slightly wider and rounded than the outer bracts.

The flowers have six stamens , each in front of the bracts, which end within the flower envelope or can protrude far from it. The stamens are awl or thread-shaped, sometimes finely hairy. They stand parallel to the style or at an angle of up to 31 ° from the inflorescence axis and are versatile in color, but mostly pale green or almost translucent.

The stamens attach to the back of the anthers (dorsifix), the connection is flexible (versatil). The anthers are oblong-round and 0.3 to 2.6 centimeters long, varied in color, but mostly purple and darken. The pollen is cream-colored, yellow, orange, rust-red or brown and usually becomes increasingly lighter.

Lilium concolor , opened seed pod

The oblong-round pistil is 2.1 to 10.5 centimeters long, three-lobed and three-sided. The ovary is on top and 0.8 to 3.5 inches long. The six placentas are at a central angle, there are numerous ovules , a few of which do not form an embryo . The stylus is elongated and narrow. It is usually pale green and round in cross section. Initially it is parallel to the flower axis, but then grows out sideways. The stigma is thickened and usually three-lobed, in older flowers it is hollow.

As a rule, lilies do not self-pollinate ; for fertilization requires usually the pollen of another plant. With a longest equatorial diameter of up to over 100 micrometers, the almost spherical pollen grains are quite large and have a boat-shaped sulcus and one to three pores with clearly delineated edges. The pollen is heteropolar and elliptical in polar plan view. The exine is 2.2 to 3.7 micrometers thick, the surface coarsely wetted, the warty lumens 1.7 to 17.0 micrometers on its surface, the muri 1.0 to 3.4 micrometers wide. The assembled Muri sit on Columellae arranged in a row. Due to the number, arrangement and shape of the Columellae, three morphological types are distinguished in the genus, on the one hand the Martagon type with Muri made of rectangular Columellae, the Callose type with Muri made of rounded Columellae and the concolor type with Muri made of alternately rounded and polygonal columellae.

Fruits and seeds

Lilies form three-chambered, upright capsule fruits that ripen to brown in color. The capsules are narrowed at the base, oblong-round to obovate, 1.5 to 7.7 inches long and 0.8 to 3.3 inches wide and 1.1 to 4.8 times longer than wide. The numerous seeds are arranged in the chambers like coins in a roll. The capsules are typical of many lily plants to lokulizide capsules attached to the back seams of each fruit leaf burst.

The seeds are flat, approximately round at 60 ° angles and are narrowly winged. They are warty light brown on the surface and the dark embryo stands out in the middle.

Lily seeds can be divided into four groups according to their germination :

  • instant and epigeic
  • delayed and epigeic
  • delayed and hypogeic
  • instant and hypogean.

With immediate germination, germination can start after a few days, depending on the species, with delayed germination, on the other hand, it takes at least a year to germination, sometimes longer.


The basic chromosome number is n = 12. All types of lily have two long metacentric and ten short acrocentric chromosomes . Metacentric means that the centromere is in the middle, with acrocentric chromosomes it is at the end. The only known exception in the genus is Lilium rubescens , which has one long metacentric chromosome and eleven short acrocentric chromosomes.

Distribution and locations

Lilies grow on all continents of the northern hemisphere , preferably in temperate zones. With around 70 species, Asia is the focus of biodiversity; 55 are found in China alone. A second focus in Asia is Japan with around 15 species, many of them endemic. In North America there are just over 20 species, a special focus with 12 species is here on the Pacific coast. In Europe (including Turkey and the Caucasus) there are almost 20 more species, with the Balkans and the Caucasus in particular as centers of diversity.

Natural distribution of the genus Lilium

The origin of the genus can be dated back around 12 million years . At this time, a clade of Lilium , Fritillaria , Cardiocrinum and Notholirion differentiated itself in the Himalayas . From the Himalayas, the genus populated both North America and Eurasia via China. While two dispersal events are assumed for the colonization of North America, one for Lilium catesbaei and Lilium philadelphicum and one for all other species, three immigrations are assumed for Europe: Lilium martagon and the precursor of Lilium bulbiferum reached Europe independently of each other on a northern immigration route , on the other hand, a third immigration on a more southerly route via the Caucasus region led to the emergence of all other European and Caucasian species including Lilium candidum . The current range of the genus still largely traces the spread, although climatic changes have since led to declines in formerly populated regions, so that only relics exist there, for example in the mountainous regions of the tropics and subtropics of Asia (e.g. in India , the Philippines, Vietnam). Striking, although not yet explained, is the lack of lilies in a corridor between eastern Afghanistan and the Caucasus. The most widespread distribution of all species today has Lilium martagon , which occurs from China to Russia to the Iberian Peninsula.

Lilies are often found as clumps in wooded or near-forest or coastal regions, as they prefer moist, but well- drained and cool places in light shade. Asian species in particular also rise to high mountain areas (e.g. Lilium nepalense up to 3700 m), two species live as epiphytes in the Asian mountain rainforest ( Lilium arboricola , Lilium eupetes ), another ( Lilium procumbens ) grows lithophytically . As far as known from culture, they prefer slightly alkaline or slightly acidic substrates, very alkaline and very acidic soils are generally avoided by lilies. A few exceptions are, for example, Lilium pomponium , which prefers strongly alkaline soils, or Lilium catesbaei , which values the very acidic soils of the American swamps and marshland with pH values ​​of 5.1 to 6.5.

Endangerment and Status

Lilium mackliniae in India, IUCN status "Endangered"

The endangerment situation of the lilies is different due to their widespread distribution. The Red List of the IUCN contained 1,997 21 taxa of the genus. For the species of the still relatively sparsely populated and often natural areas of Central and Southeast Asia, Russia and the Caucasus, hardly any endangerment was identified, only six mostly small-scale endemics were recorded mostly with the status "rare" or similar (e.g. Lilium ledebourii ). In the USA, on the other hand, the species, which are often only distributed in small areas on the coasts, are under increased risk due to increasingly dense colonization. Of the seven taxa also included in the list, three were listed as "Endangered", namely Lilium occidentale and Lilium pardalinum subsp. pitkinense in California and Oregon and Lilium grayi on the east coast around North Carolina and Virginia . The status “endangered” was only given four times in the genus, in addition to the American species and the Indian Lilium mackliniae . In addition to this, the list contains two other Indian species and three from Japan, only two species from Europe are affected ( Lilium pomponium , Lilium rhodopeum ).

Regardless of this classification and their respective endangerment, lilies are often the subject of national protection efforts, ranging from legal protection to the establishment of protected areas, also in German-speaking countries. In Germany the native lilies (ie Lilium martagon and Lilium bulbiferum ) have been "specially protected" since August 31, 1980 according to the Federal Species Protection Ordinance. In Austria, all native species of the genus (in addition to Lilium martagon and Lilium bulbiferum also Lilium carniolicum ) can be found in the species protection regulations of the federal states. In Switzerland, Lilium bulbiferum is even on the "List of National Priority Species".

Research history

Before the basic classification of plants by Carl von Linné by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort in 1700, Lilium was identified and named as a genus in his work Institutiones rei herbariae . The name Lilium, which was long established at that time , may come from a language of the western Mediterranean countries. Related terms for "flower" can be found in Hamitic languages ( ilili ) as well as in Basque ( lili ). It can be safely traced back to the Eastern Mediterranean region, via the ancient Greek λείϱιον lēīrion and the Latin lilium , the term in a modified form became the identifier for the genus in the majority of European languages.

The genus was first formally described by Linnaeus in 1753 . In 1929, Hitchcock and Green identified the Madonna lily ( Lilium candidum ) as the type species .

Pioneering work

Heinrich Gottlieb Ludwig Reichenbach provided the first internal systematic of the genus in his work Conspectus regni vegetabilis in 1828 , he distinguished between two sub- genres , namely Martagon and Eulirion . This became necessary as the genus grew: While Linne only assigned seven species to the genus, in 1829 the lilies in Joseph August Schultes ' Systema vegetabilium already comprised 35 species.

Further processing followed continuously (e.g. by Stephan Ladislaus Endlicher in 1836, Karl Sigismund Kunth in 1843, John Lindley in 1845), while more and more species were also being described anew. However, a very small work proved to be particularly influential: In 1871, in anticipation of a planned but never written monograph, John Gilbert Baker presented a synopsis on the genre. In addition to a description of the generic characteristics, it also contained a new classification. He introduced two sub-genera into it, besides Lilium also Notholirion . He divided the subgenus Lilium into four subgroups, namely Eulirion , Archelirion , Isolirion and Martagon .

A Monograph of the Genus Lilium

Walter Hood Fitch's illustration of Lilium speciosum from A Monograph of the Genus Lilium

Baker's essay gave the British amateur Henry John Elwes the decisive impetus in the mid-1870s to write a monograph for the first time exclusively devoted to the genus Lilium . As an amateur, however, he did not write it himself, but won numerous renowned botanists, including Baker himself, to contribute texts to the work. From 1877 to 1880 a " A monograph of the genus Lilium " was published, illustrated by the lithographer Walter Hood Fitch . Several supplementary volumes appeared up to 1962, but the original was not reprinted.

Although no new monograph has appeared since the publication of Elwes' work to the present day, some works were published in the 20th century that contributed to further knowledge of the genre. Ernest Henry Wilson's The Lilies of Eastern Asia from 1925 stands out among them, as Wilson was a plant hunter in China and was able to present numerous new lilies with his book. Due to the age of Elwe's work, modern scientific texts often refer to the actually more horticultural-oriented "Lilies" by Edward McRae , which appeared in 1998 and to a large extent on the German-language book "Die Neuen Lilien" by Carl Feldmaier and Judith Freeman from the year 1982 based.

Comber's sectional model

Harold Frederick Comber , a student of Henry John Elwes, proposed a classification of lilies in 1949, which is the reference for the genus to this day. While all previous systematics were based exclusively on the shape of the flower alone and thus came to partly very artificial systematics, Comber used a broader spectrum of characteristics in order to find a systematics that for the first time depicts the natural relationships within the genus.

On the basis of thirteen selected and differently weighted morphological features and the types of germination, he divided the genus into seven sections and nine subsections and tried to describe the relationships between the sections using a graphic representation (although not in a strictly cladistic sense).

  3 Liriotypus ─────────────┐     ┌───────────── 7 Daurolirion
                            │     │
                            │     │
                          1 Martagon
                            │     │                        ┌────────────── 5 Sinomartagon
                            │     │                        │
  2 Pseudolirium ───────────┘     └───────────── 4 Archelirion
                                                           └────────────── 6 Leucolirion


External system

The genera Fritillaria , Notholirion , Nomocharis as well as the genus of the giant lilies ( Cardiocrinum ) have always been understood as belonging to the closer family of the lilies , they were often taken together as the tribe Lilieae. The exact delimitation of the genera from each other was unclear for a long time, with the exception of the Fritillaria all genera were temporarily placed next to the lilies, Cardiocrinum and Notholirion were originally even first described as sub-taxa of the lilies. Molecular biological investigations have repeatedly confirmed the tribe and made the internal delimitations clear. The sister taxon of the lilies are then the Fritillaria , the basal taxon of the tribe is Notholirion , with Cardiocrinum in between.

With regard to the genus Nomocharis , the lilies are certainly paraphyletic , that is, the Nomocharis species belong to the lilies. Although numerous molecular biological studies have confirmed this, a corresponding taxonomic processing was long pending, it only took place in 2016.

 Lilium (incl. Nomocharis )







Internal system

In particular, based on intensive molecular genetic research by Tomotaro Nishikawa since 1999, the outlines of a new, phylogenetically based system are beginning to emerge. Nishikawa's research mainly confirmed Comber's sectioning, but the sections require a modified subsectioning, many species have to be reassigned and Comber's pioneering work in tracing the relationships can no longer be sustained in the light of modern phylogenetic results. At Tomotaro there were three large clades to which the different sections or subsections were assigned.



 Sinomartagon - Daurolirion


 Leucolirione (6b)






 Leucolirione (6a)


 Pseudo- sinomartagon




 Pseudolirium (only Lilium philadelphicum )

Template: Klade / Maintenance / 3Template: Klade / Maintenance / 4


 Pseudolirium (without Lilium philadelphicum )

Template: Klade / Maintenance / 3

Sections and species of the genus Lilium

Diseases and predators


A large number of fungi live on lily species as host plants. Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lilii and Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. narcissi can trigger Fusarium wilt . This is considered to be the most serious and dangerous lily disease. The onion is hollowed out from below. The leaf tips turn yellow, the buds remain closed and the plant dies. The spores can survive in the soil for several years and infect new plants.

Botrytis elliptica is a specific lily pathogen , whereas gray mold rot ( B. cinerea ), another Botrytis species, does not specifically affect lilies. Both species cause brown or green glassy spots on leaf tips, flowers and buds that enlarge quickly. After that, the infected plant quickly dies. However, since only parts of the plant above ground are attacked, the lily sprouts again in the following year.

In addition, lilies are less frequently attacked by Sclerotium delphinii , Colletotrichum lilii , Cercosporella inconspicua , Rhizopus species, and various root fungi such as Cylindrocarpon destructans , Pythium splendens or Rhizoctonia solani .


About 20 viruses or viroids can attack lilies. The most important are the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), the lily check virus ( LMoV), the lily mild mosaic virus (LMMV) and the lily X virus (LVX). Almost all viruses cause pale piebald patterns on the leaves radiating from the leaf veins. Often there are deformities, the leaves are twisted or curled. The Lily Symptomless Virus (LSV), which does not show any obvious damage but weakens the plants and makes them vulnerable, also infects lilies. All viruses are spread primarily by aphids (Aphidoidea), fringed winged winged winged (Thysanoptera) or occasionally roundworms (Nematoda), which transmit the infectious plant sap. All viruses that infect lilies are not enveloped and are therefore resistant to pesticides. In culture, only burning the infected plants helps to prevent further spread. Not all species of lily are susceptible to these viruses; Asian species in particular often have tolerance or resistance.

Lily Chicken ( Lilioceris lilii )


In Europe, the lily is an important fodder for the 6 to 8 millimeter large lily chicken ( Lilioceris lilii ), a seal-lacquer beetle. The larvae in particular , but also the adults, can eat entire lily populations down to the stem in just a few days if the infestation is severe.

The lily leaf miner fly ( Liriomyza urophorina ) is common in some areas . It lays its eggs in the buds that are formed and these wither, fall off or open completely deformed.

Various roundworms (Nematoda) suck as ectoparasites on lily bulbs. These are mainly nematodes of the genus foliar nematodes ( Aphelenchoides ), the migratory rootworm Pratylenchus penetrans and Rotylenchus robustus . Also rhizoglyphus ( Rhizoglyphus ) from the family of flour mites (Acaridae) feeding on lily bulbs.

Cultural history

Lilium chalcedonicum as a fresco motif in Akrotiri , Bronze Age, approx. 1600 BC Chr.
Sandro Botticelli, Madonna with the Child and Singing Angels (Raczyński Tondo) , ca.1477

In terms of cultural history, a clear distinction is not always made between biological species. Thus, a wide variety of plants such as Crinum ( Crinum ), the Amaryllis belladonna ( Amaryllis belladonna ), sprekelia ( Sprekelia ) anthericum ( Anthericum ), daylilies ( Hemerocallis ), iris ( Iris ), Trillium ( Trillium called) and many other plants simply with lily . In this sense, it found no significant use in heraldry , for example, the lily in heraldry replicates an iris . Attempts have been made to find examples in cultural history that actually designate lilies.

Lilies as a cultural symbol

In the Mediterranean cultures, due to its geographically widespread distribution, the brilliant white Madonna lily was the focus of symbolic use. Images probably of the Madonna lily can already be found on Frisians in Minoan Crete . The oldest known representation of a lily, however, probably shows Lilium chalcedonicum . These are around 3500 year old frescoes in the Bronze Age city ​​of Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini . The Madonna lily, on the other hand, was the flower of Hera in ancient Greece , Cassianus Bassus reports in his Geoponica that it was created from drops of milk spilled on her breasts when Hercules drank from them. Aphrodite is said to have been so annoyed about the purity of the flower that she also planted a donkey phallus as a stamp.

In Christianity the lily appears as a symbol. Susanna in the bath (from Hebrew "Shushan" = "the lily") was represented even before Mary with the symbol of the lily as a sign of her purity. The sign was adopted in the veneration of Mary and received its current meaning in Christian design language as the "Madonna lily" and symbol of purity. The Archangel Gabriel has also been wearing a lily as an attribute since the 14th century , especially in depictions of the Annunciation ; in his hand it symbolizes the eternal virginity of Mary and replaced the previous symbol of the scepter as the archangel's main attribute.

Lilium rubellum is a symbol of health and is part of Shinto rites. Since 702, the "Saikusa matsuri" lily festival has been taking place in Nara on June 17 , during which the believers try to catch one of the lily stems from the rite, as it is said to have the power to help against diseases.

It is also often found on coats of arms .

Lilies in literature

In the oldest surviving Japanese book, the Kojiki from 712, lilies are mentioned in the wedding scene of the first emperor, as well as in several poems in Man'yōshū from 759.

Lilies are mentioned several times in the Bible. The most well-known passage can be found at Lk 12.27 and Mt 6.28:

“And why do you care for the clothes? Look at the lilies in the field, how they grow: they don't work, they don't spin either. 29 I tell you that also Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of them. "

- Mt 6:28, Luther translation 1912

One of the oldest mentions of the lily in Old High German then also represents a translation of this passage in the Carolingian period in Tatian . Further mentions from this period can be found in Notker I. and Otfrid von Weißenburg .

In the German-language literature, there are mainly three different, albeit closely related, images of the lily, which are sometimes used at the same time and even by the same author. From the Christian symbolic language in the Middle Ages in literature the lily is a symbol for virginity, purity and innocence. This can also be found many centuries later e.g. B. still with Christoph Martin Wieland .

In the second picture the lily is drawn as a slim, delicate and pale flower. This becomes particularly clear in the adjective “lily pale”. The same Wieland uses this image in the following place:

“She says it in a weak, half-choked voice, and sinks to his chest. The lily's withered head falls in the storm, crumpled "

- Wieland, 23, 38

In the third picture, the lily is used in conjunction with the rose. Here especially with roses on a grave or for pictures and comparisons, there is no longer any trace of the innocence of the first picture. As with August von Platen-Hallermünde :

“Like the lily, let your bosom be open without resentment; but like the chaste rose it is deep and full. "

- Graf Platen

Lilies as medicinal plants

The earliest mentions of lilies in China go back to their use as a medicinal plant. A lily is mentioned for the first time in the classical " Shennong ben cao jing ", which was written around 200 AD, and is used up to the present day. Lilies are used against chronic coughs, blood diseases and insomnia.

In ancient Greece, a variety of flowers were used to make pain-relieving ointments; in addition to roses , daffodils and irises , lilies were also used. It was also used against menstrual cramps , burns and tension. From the late Roman medical codices, Pseudo-Apuleius has also received an early illustration from the 4th century. To this day, plant juices classified as " astringent " are used in various folk medicines to heal damaged or irritated tissue, e.g. B. abscesses, inflamed or cracked skin, ulcers or fresh wounds. Pliny the Elder already pointed out this use, but Dioscurides and Hildegard von Bingen also recommended its use for superficial injuries and diseases.

Lilies for food

Except for the trunk, all parts of most lily species are edible. In China , the onions of Lilium brownii , Lilium regale , Lilium lancifolium and Lilium speciosum are used in the kitchen and are also specially grown for this purpose. The onions are eaten fresh or dried, or starch is obtained from them.

Heinrich von Kittlitz reported from Kamchatka in 1858 that the onion scales of Lilium debile , but also Lilium martagon , are “tasty and apparently very nutritious vegetables”.

Lilium bulbs were also used as food for tribes of North American indigenous people; there is evidence of the use of Lilium columbianum , Lilium pardalinum , Lilium parvum , Lilium occidentale and Lilium philadelphicum ; they were boiled, steamed, baked or consumed raw.

In Europe, too, lily bulbs were sometimes used as food. In 1783, Charles Bryant listed the Turk's Union lily as a food plant in his Flora Diaetetica .

Lilies as ornamental plants

Although lilies had long been valued by humans, they did not gain a permanent place as cultivated plants until the 1930s through the activities of Jan de Graaff and his establishment of the "Oregon Bulb Farms". In England, the USA and Holland in particular, this has since led to numerous hybrids and a flourishing lily industry. In Holland alone, production rose from 4.2 million stems in 1968 to 152 million stems in 1978. In Japan, lilies were the fifth most sold cut flowers in 2008 with the second highest prices. In 2005 , over 13,000 hybrids and cultivars were registered with the Royal Horticultural Society , the International Cultivar Registration Authority for the genus Lilium .

As garden plants, in addition to numerous hybrids, some species are still present, such as the king's lily , the Turkish league , the Madonna lily and the tiger lily . As early as the 19th century, the Easter lily was widely traded as a cut flower. It was originally produced in Japan and Bermuda, but today mainly in the USA (California, Oregon), Japan and the Netherlands. It is the only pure species that is important as a cut flower, otherwise the market is dominated by varieties.

Breeding classification

In breeding, nine different lily divisions are distinguished (loosely along Comber's model) for the classification of hybrids and cultivars. Seven of these divisions include groups of systematically related species that can cross with each other, division 8 serves as a collection group for otherwise unrecorded crossings and division 9 lists species and their cultivars:

  • Division 1: Asian hybrids:
Crosses of Lilium amabile, Lilium bulbiferum, Lilium callosum, Lilium cernuum, Lilium concolor, Lilium dauricum, Lilium davidii, Lilium lancifolium, Lilium lankongense, Lilium Leichtlinii, Lilium pumilum, Lilium wardii, Lilium wilsonii . The flowers are usually small to medium-sized, monochrome or with contrasting colored flower tips and sap marks . Spots are missing or are clearly delineated. Only weakly or not at all fragrant.
  • Division 2: Martagon hybrids
Crosses of Lilium hansonii, Lilium martagon, Lilium medeoloides and tsingtauense . Early flowering. The flowers are usually small, numerous and pointing downwards; the petals are often spotted, thickened and bent back into the shape of Turkish leagues. The flowers are poor in fragrance or have an unpleasant smell. The buds are often hairy, the bulbs often purple or orange-yellow.
  • Division 3: Euro-Caucasian hybrids
Crosses of Lilium candidum, Lilium chalcedonicum, Lilium kesselringianum, Lilium monadelphum, Lilium pomponium and Lilium pyrenaicum . The flowers are usually small to medium-sized, often bell-shaped to a turkish collar and pointing downwards. The flower colors are often pale, spots may be missing or there may be numerous. They are often fragrant and many are lime-tolerant.
  • Division 4: American hybrids
Crosses of Lilium bolanderi, Lilium canadense, Lilium columbianum, Lilium grayi, Lilium humboldtii, Lilium kelleyanum, Lilium kelloggii, Lilium maritimum, Lilium michauxii, Lilium michiganense, Lilium occidentale, Lilium pardalinum, Lilium parryi, Lilium parvum, Lilium philadelphum, Lilium Lilium superbum, Lilium vollmeri, Lilium washingtonianum and Lilium wigginsii . The only slightly fragrant flowers are mostly small to medium-sized and pointing downwards, strongly yellow to orange-red and clearly spotted. The petals are narrow, usually bent back.
  • Division 5: Longiflorum Lilies
Crosses of Lilium formosanum, Lilium longiflorum, Lilium philippinense and Lilium wallichianum . The mostly few, fragrant flowers are usually medium to large and trumpet-shaped and monochrome white. There are no spots, papillae and sap marks.
  • Division 6: Trumpet and Aurelian hybrids
Crosses of Lilium brownii, Lilium henryi, Lilium leucanthum, Lilium regale, Lilium rosthornii, Lilium sargentiae and Lilium sulphureum . Aurelian hybrids are defined as a combination of Lilium henryi with Trumpet Lilies. The flowers are usually medium to large in size and can have any common shape. They are white, cream, yellow to orange or pink, often with star-shaped drawings in contrasting colors in the throat or bands on the outside. Trumpet hybrids are usually fragrant, unsigned or narrowly banded at the base. The tips of the petals are bent up.
  • Division 7: Oriental hybrids
Crosses of Lilium auratum, Lilium japonicum, Lilium nobilissimum, Lilium rubellum and Lilium speciosum . The often late blooming, fragrant flowers are usually medium to very large. The inner petals are usually very wide and overlap at the base. They are usually white to pink to crimson, occasionally golden yellow, often with a white base color, with contrasting color in the throat. Spots are absent or numerous, papillae and nectaries are clearly pronounced.
  • Division 8: Other hybrids
Intersections not covered by any of Divisions 1 through 7, including any intersections across division boundaries. The division also includes all hybrids of Lilium henryi with Lilium auratum, Lilium japonicum, Lilium nobilissimum, Lilium rubellum and Lilium speciosum .
  • Division 9: Species and their cultivars.


Footnotes directly behind a statement cover the individual statement, footnotes directly behind a punctuation mark the entire preceding sentence. Footnotes after a space refer to the entire preceding paragraph.

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further reading

  • Carl Feldmaier, Judith McRae: The new lilies. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-8001-6121-4 .
  • Edward A. McRae: Lilies. A Guide for Growers and Collectors. Timber Press, Portland / Oregon, 1998, ISBN 0-88192-410-5 .

Web links

Commons : Lilien ( Lilium )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: lilies  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on June 2, 2012 in this version .